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Ocean at the Window

Ocean at the Window: Hungarian Prose and Poetry since 1945

Albert Tezla Editor
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    Ocean at the Window
    Book Description:

    Ocean at the Window was first published in 1981. Hungary, after World War II, was a country torn apart by political conflict. Hungarians struggled to survive a long alliance with Germany, Soviet occupation, assumption of power by the Communist part, and the bloody revolution of 1956. The years since that uprising have witnessed the consolidation of a single-party socialist state producing a profound effect not only on the economic and social life of the nation but also on the cultural policies that govern the arts. This volume collects the work of Hungarian authors who, in spite of the turmoil and uncertainty of those years, have developed a rich and varied imaginative literature. Albert Tezla has chosen to concentrate on ten major writers who established their reputations during the first two decades after the war and have been influential in current literary developments. They are: Sándor Csoóri, Ferenc Juhász, László Nagy, Ágnes Nemes Nagy, János Pilinszky, István Csurka, Iván Mándy, Miklós Mészöly, István Örkény, and Ferenc Sánta. In addition, he presents a sampling of the work of 14 writers first published after 1965. The collection includes both poetry and prose along with critical essays and author interviews; nearly all the selections are complete pieces. The editor provides a substantial introduction to the major literary developments in postwar Hungary within the context of the changing political climate, and a biographical-critical essay for each writer. The volume also includes a short guide to Hungarian pronunciation and a comprehensive bibliography of twentieth-century Hungarian literature in translation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5517-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Albert Tezla
  4. Major Developments in the Imaginative Literature of Hungary 1945
    (pp. xix-xl)
    Albert Tezla
  5. How to Pronounce Hungarian Words
    (pp. xli-xliv)
    László Országh
  6. István Örkény
    (pp. 3-36)

    Örkény was born on April 5, 1912 in Budapest, for which he felt a deep affection based not only on its beauty but also on its “abundance of creative energy.” He died on June 24,1979. His father was the proprietor of a noted pharmacy in the capital; his grandfather operated a small vinegar factory in Verbély (now Vráble, Czechoslovakia), a little village where Örkény regularly spent his summer vacations until he turned twenty. Belonging to such a well-to-do family, he traveled abroad frequently before World War II, and lived in France for two years, in England for one. To please...

  7. Iván Mándy
    (pp. 37-72)

    Mándy was born on December 23, 1918 in Budapest into a Protestant family, originally from Szatmár County, that experienced a continually unstable economic and social existence. His father, whose personality and bohemian life influenced him greatly, sometimes negatively, and who became a forceful symbol of much of the reality presented in his fiction, first worked at the city hall; then, after his assignment to see to the building of the new national theater was canceled, he became a journalist and worked on several periodicals but never as a regular member of the staff. During his boyhood, Mándy lived in numerous...

  8. Miklós Mészöly
    (pp. 73-114)

    Mészöly was born on January 19, 1921 in Szekszárd, in a region of Hungary famous for its vineyards. His ancestors were Protestant ministers, lawyers, smallholders, and peasants. The thought of becoming a writer first occurred to him at the age of twelve, when, looking at photographs on a summer afternoon while alone at home, he suddenly realized that a picture could also be described in words, at which “every object, every phenomenon was immediately filled with hidden significance.” He was ashamed of this decision for a long time, years during which he was a shotputter, discus thrower, tennis player, and...

  9. János Pilinszky
    (pp. 115-150)

    Pilinszky was born on November 27, 1921 in Budapest. His family was well-educated and middle-class; his father was a lawyer, his maternal grandfather a master cooper in a village. After completing his studies at the Piarist High School, he studied law at the University of Budapest, but after a time, he turned to Hungarian literature and the history of art. He began a dissertation on Jenő Péterfy, the influential nineteenth-century essayist and critic but never completed it. In 1941 he became an assistant editor of (Life Élet), a weekly of the St. Stephen Society, and held this post until the...

  10. Ágnes Nemes Nagy
    (pp. 151-180)

    Nemes Nagy was born in Budapest on January 3,1922, not long after her parents had left the family’s traditional home in Transylvania because that region had been separated from Hungary and joined to Rumania by the Treaty of Trianon. Her ancestors were chiefly lawyers and ministers of the Reformed Church, and, according to family legend, one of the ministers was sentenced to the galleys in the seventeenth century for not renouncing his religious convictions. The legendary behavior of her grandfather during the nineteenth century was very real, however: rising suddenly from the family table, he would go off for months...

  11. László Nagy
    (pp. 181-214)

    Nagy was born in Felsőiszkáz, a small village not far from the region of Lake Balaton, in 1925, on July 14 according to his mother or, more probably, on July 17 according to his birth certificate; he considered the former more appropriate to him since it was the day on which the Bastille was stormed. He died of a heart attack on January 30, 1978, in Budapest, which he had made his home since August 1946. His parents, often present in his poems, were peasants who barely managed to keep up with interest payments on the mortgage on the land...

  12. Ferenc Sánta
    (pp. 215-246)

    Sánta was born on September 4, 1927 in Brassó, Transylvania, formerly a part of Hungary, for which he retains a deep emotional and cultural attachment. His family—he was the third child—often moved from place to place as his parents tried to establish a secure way of life. While still an adolescent Sánta left home to seek his future in Debrecen shortly after the Russians had driven the German forces out of Hungary. His first-hand experiences with direst poverty, the daily struggle of the poor, both peasants and workers, to obtain the meagerest necessities for subsistence, find touching expression...

  13. Ferenc Juhász
    (pp. 247-276)

    Juhász was born on August 16,1928, in Bia, a small village situated about twenty kilometers from Budapest. His father, a huge man, was a cheerful, convivial person tolerating the routine demands of each day and a detester of books; his mother, on the other hand, a very private person troubled by the circumstances in which the family lived, was anguished and read omniverously. His father spent most of his time with his friends, often participating in the activities of the Choral Society; his mother shut herself away among her dreams and her borrowed books. Juhász often served as a mediator...

  14. Sándor Csoóri
    (pp. 277-300)

    Csoóri was born on February 3, 1930 in Zámoly, “right in the middle of a teethchattering hard winter and the similarly severe economic crisis.” His parents were peasants and Protestants, who were defenseless against the desperate economic situation but stubborn in their faith and convictions. His father was always stirred by historical events and social justice, and picked up every scrap of newspaper to inform himself about such issues; his mother, on the other hand, was, according to Csoóri, a peasant who existed purely within “the world of oral tradition,” and it was she who not only ran the household...

  15. István Csurka
    (pp. 301-334)

    Csurka was born on March 27, 1934 in Budapest, where his family had first moved in 1929 from Nagyvárad, Transylvania. His parents, he states, centered all their energies on ensuring the welfare of the children. His father, whose family roots lay in the peasant culture around Békés, also in Transylvania, greatly influenced Csurka’s decision to follow a writing career. His father tried various kinds of employment in Budapest and finally secured a post at a credit bank. To supplement his income, he contributed articles and fiction to periodicals in the early 1930s, and he eventually established a large readership with...

  16. Anna Jókai
    (pp. 337-344)

    Jókai, a native of Budapest, was born on November 24, 1932. Her father had great difficulty supporting the family, and he increasingly felt the weight of the economic Depression during the thirties. After graduating from high school in 1951, Jókai tried to make her own living; she worked as an office clerk, an elocutionist, and head bookkeeper. She eventually entered the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest, and on completing her studies in Hungarian language and history in 1961, she became a teacher at a small elementary school in Pest for ten years, then at the Mihály Vörösmarty High School of...

  17. László Marsall
    (pp. 345-352)

    Marsall, whose first volume of poetry was published when he was thirty-seven, was born on November 3, 1933 in Szeged, a city on the banks of the Tisza River in southern Hungary. He was, he says, “an uncommunicative child, a solitary and maniacal dreamer,” and his “real home was the attic, the lilac path, and the narrow corridor for cats bordered by the fence,” where he “drew maps of imaginary continents and countries” and “was occupied with imaginary people.” He regarded the outside world in those days only when he could make its messages conform to his own world order....

  18. István Császár
    (pp. 353-360)

    Császár, who was born in Budapest on June 23, 1936, recollects observing Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary from 1920 to 1944, amble up the red-carpeted steps of the Parliament with his official party to open Christmas gift parcels, and feeling quite left out of the proceedings as a member of a poor family. Later he saw a ten-kilometer stretch of the national highway leading into Budapest “stacked on both sides with the bodies of dead Soviet soldiers.” It was a sight which, he says, “brought both my callow childhood and the war to an end.” His schooling was a frustrating...

  19. Dezső Tandori
    (pp. 361-366)

    Tandori was born on December 8, 1938 in Budapest into a family with a long tradition of advanced education. His father was first a doctor of jurisprudence and then a certified public accountant. Tandori obtained a degree from the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest to teach Hungarian and German in high school, and beginning in 1962, he taught German for nine years. He is now on the staff of the Hungarian People’s Republic Art Foundation, as a translator and writer, most of his income coming from translating. Among the most important of his translations are: the poems of Johann Hölderlin,...

  20. Anna Kiss
    (pp. 367-372)

    Anna Kiss was born on January 26, 1939 in Gyula and grew up in Zsadány, both in Békés County, which borders on Rumania. All her ancestors were peasants and artisans, and she maintains that the character of her poetry and verse plays is dependent on and derives from this ancestry. While studying at the Debrecen Medical School, she frequently worked as an auxiliary nurse in several hospitals. After a successful two and a half years in her medical program, she decided to become a teacher and secured a diploma from the Szeged Teachers College in Hungarian and Russian. For a...

  21. József Utassy
    (pp. 373-378)

    Utassy was born on March 23, 1941 in Ózd, near the Czechoslovakian border, where his father lived in a barracks as a laborer and on Saturdays traveled by bicycle to his home in Bükkszenterzsébet. Forced to change jobs frequently, his father worked in a mine and a quarry, and was a seasonal contract worker in Germany for three years. About him Utassy writes: “Then came the draft, the Don River Bend, and that moment when a German private valued oat fodder more than the lives of my father and his brothers-in-arms—in three-degree weather somewhere in the vicinity of Minsk....

  22. Gábor Czakó
    (pp. 379-384)

    Czakó was born on September 14, 1942 in Decs, a town of about 5000 inhabitants in southern Hungary. His father, who was a toolmaker, electrician, and photographer, disappeared during the battle at the Don River Bend in 1943; his mother, the daughter of a carpenter, raised him and an older brother by operating his father’s photographic shop. He completed high school in 1960 in Szekszárd, a few kilometers north of Decs. After studying art for a year in Budapest, he went to Pécs and completed law studies at the university there in 1965. He then served for a year as...

  23. Miklós Veress
    (pp. 385-390)

    Veress was born in Bares, a small town on the Drava River in Somogy County, on January 13, 1942 in house number 13, which led him to observe that he could not have started life with “a better poetical prognosis,” since “a poet reaps when hail has destroyed the wheat.” His mother was a native of the province, which is inhabited by Croatians as well as Hungarians. His father’s family, all artisans, had moved from Kiskundorozsma in Csongrád County to Arad in Transylvania, when impoverished by the famous Szeged flood in 1879. From there his father had gone to Budapest...

  24. Benedek Kiss
    (pp. 391-396)

    Kiss was born on March 19, 1943 in Akasztó, in Bács-Kiskun County. Having known only village life and culture until he was fourteen, he definitely is tied to the people and land between the Danube and Tisza rivers, a fact attested to by the subject matter, imagery, and diction of his poetry. Both sides of his family came from that level of the peasantry from which there had been considerable movement into industrial and professional occupations. Unfortunately for him, his parents’ marriage dissolved very quickly. His mother, who raised him and a younger brother, is still employed as a seamstress....

  25. György Petri
    (pp. 397-404)

    Petri was born on December 22, 1943 in Budapest into a family of civil servants. He has, since boyhood, wanted to be “a poet and something more than just a poet.” After graduation from high school, he worked at various jobs for four years, including occupational therapy at a mental hospital; having developed an interest in psychology in late adolescence, he found this job the most interesting. His desire to become a psychiatrist lasted until he learned that psychology contained “more playful fantasy than authoritative knowledge.” He finally discovered in philosophy the sphere, in addition to poetry, in which his...

  26. Géza Bereményi
    (pp. 405-414)

    Bereményi, who was born on January 25, 1946 in Budapest, was as a child raised by his aged maternal grandparents, who operated a small vegetable and fruit store. Later he went to live with his mother and foster father, a physician. He spent his childhood on Teleki Square, in a building in which retired elderly ladies and small shopkeepers lived. He was about four years old, when he listened to freight handlers and idlers, warming themselves there in his grandparents’ kitchen, reading aloud stories about Tarzan and the Wild West, for which his grandfather gave them a few coins. On...

  27. Vilmos Csaplár
    (pp. 415-422)

    Csaplár was born on June 29, 1947 in Újpest, a little town which was incorporated by Budapest a few years after his birth. His father is a technician, still employed in a workshop as a refrigeration specialist; his mother worked throughout her life at various jobs and retired as a store clerk. After graduating from high school, Csaplár studied law at the Loránd Eötvös University, but after a year he changed to the study of Hungarian language and literature and received a teaching diploma in 1972. He has, for years, made his living as an author. In the spring of...

  28. Szilveszter Ördögh
    (pp. 423-430)

    Ördögh was born on October 28, 1948 in Szeged. His parents, as well as his remote ancestors, were peasants in that area, and his experiences with village life through his family are the principal source of his early short stories. He completed elementary and high school studies in Szeged and Hódmezővásárhely, a city about twenty kilometers from Szeged. Then, after service in the army, he entered the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest and in 1973 obtained a teaching diploma in Hungarian and French. At the university, he chose Péter Veres, the chronicler of village life, to direct his thesis work;...

  29. Miklós Vámos
    (pp. 431-438)

    Vámos was born on January 29, 1950 in Budapest. His father, a lawyer, worked in the Ministry of the Interior after World War II until the Rajk dispute, after which he became a millworker and then, for a long time, as a semi-skilled worker at a typographical factory. From 1958 to his death in 1969 he was a legal adviser at a leather factory. His mother was, until her retirement in 1973, an administrator in a factory manufacturing agricultural machines. Under the influence of his father, Vámos developed an early interest in literature, establishing at the age of ten a...

  30. Bibliography
    (pp. 441-474)
  31. Contributors
    (pp. 477-481)